In a remarkable act of altruism, outspoken Gaelic football pundit Joe Brolly has donated a kidney to a man he has only known a short while.
Mr Brolly, a high-profile barrister and a Derry GAA football hero, decided to help out his friend, south Belfast public relations man Shane Finnegan, after hearing of his constant need to attend hospital for dialysis as he waited for a donated organ.
What makes the generous gift of life all the more amazing is that the ex-Gaelic player and the Aiken PR client director only met and became pals relatively recently.
They got to know each other in the past few weeks through coaching their sons’ U10 Gaelic football team at St Brigid’s GAC in south Belfast.
Mr Brolly, an All-Ireland medal winner with his native Derry, stepped up to the mark after he heard Mr Finnegan had been through a transplant operation before, but over the past six years had been forced to attend Belfast City Hospital three nights a week for dialysis.
The new transplant took place at Guys Hospital in London on Wednesday.
Both Shane (40) and Joe (42) remain there under medical supervision.
A statement from Aiken PR, where the father-of-three has worked for the past 11 years, said both men were recovering well in London.
Described by his colleagues as “an exceptionally nice and unassuming guy”, many of Mr Finnegan’s clients were unaware he had kidney problems until he told them he would be off work for a while.
Speaking from his hospital bed in London, Mr Finnegan, who is husband to Catherine and father to twins Pierce and Eve (9) and 10-month-old Garrett, said he is overwhelmed by Mr Brolly’s selfless act.
“This is a remarkable and overwhelming gesture of kindness, especially as I have only known Joe Brolly for a short time,” he said.
“We have only become acquainted recently through our kids playing together at St Brigid’s GAC.
“There are no words to thank him or his family for his wonderful gift.
“I know its early days, but I’m so relieved that it’s all going well for both of us so far.”
Father-of-five Brolly, known for being a colourful and outspoken character on RTE’s Sunday Game programme, said he was delighted to help his new friend.
“I’m honoured to have been in the position to help Shane,” he said.
“He’s been waiting for a transplant for over six years.
“When I heard that the only possibility of getting one was through a live donor I contacted his medical team. And, of course, in my considered opinion it’s all going according to plan — and thankfully the doctors concur.”
Joe Brolly background
Joe Brolly doesn’t do anything by halves, as his selfless act of donating a kidney reveals.
The father-of-five from Limavady, Co Londonderry, is a barrister, former star GAA footballer and RTE pundit.
He won an All-Ireland title with Derry in 1993, was named an All Star and helped St Canice’s Dungiven win two Derry Senior Football Championships and an Ulster Senior Club Football Championship, before transferring to St Brigid's GAC in south Belfast. Renowned during his playing days for his goal celebration of blowing kisses to the crowd, he is the son of traditional singer and Limavady Sinn Fein councillor Anne Brolly.
His father Francie, at one stage a Sinn Fein councillor and MLA, also played for Derry in the 1960s.
Brolly (42) was educated at Saint Patrick's Grammar School, Armagh, Trinity College Dublin and Queen's University Belfast.
He has represented defendants in a number of high-profile court cases and also works as a journalist.
He is best known publicly for his radio and television football punditry, working on RTE programme The Sunday Game alongside Meath legend Colm O’Rourke and Kerry legend Pat Spillane.
He’s known for speaking his mind and has had high-profile on-air spats with his fellow commentators, once having a heated row with Spillane after calling Kerry’s star Com Cooper, aka ‘the Gooch’ “a choker”.
He also coined the phrase “puke hurling” to describe the game, incensing managers and fans alike.
Despite his flamboyant outbursts, Brolly is recognised as having a keen legal mind and is much in demand as a barrister.
Even in this arena he has courted controversy, once claiming he was paid too much in legal aid after an outcry over legal fees paid to lawyers out of the public funds.